“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” – Genesis xv. 1.
Notice the declaration, “the word of the Lord came unto Abram.” He had no control over it, nor have we or any one else, but the Lord God omnipotent speaks it as seemeth Him good in His sight, and unto whomsoever He will. “The word of God,” says Paul, “is not bound.” It loosens the shackles of those who are in bondage, but neither man nor devils can control it. God is in fact and indeed omnipotent, and reigns over all His creation continuously. The Lord declares by Isaiah that it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto He sends it. The expression to which I have called attention occurs in other places in the Scriptures: “The word of the Lord tat came unto Hosea.” ”The word of the Lord that came to Joel,” &c. Amos tells us of the circumstances under which the word of the Lord came to him; he was not a prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but he was a herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: “And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto My people Israel.” Ezekiel testifies that he was “among the captives by the river of Chebar,” and the word of the Lord came expressly unto him, also the “heavens were opened,” and “he saw visions of God.” The Lord speaks His word as it pleases Him. It is as full of power now as it was in Abram’s day. It comes to us in our trials, pierces the thickest darkness that can enshrouds us, throws back the bolts of our bondage, scatters the dark clouds from around us, and leads us into rest. In our worst sense of our sinfulness and depravity, His word “Live!” begets us unto life and salvation.
But this word is discriminating in the objects of its choice. In the sense in which I speak of it, it is heard alone by, and full of blessings alone for that particular people who were embraced in the everlasting choice made in Christ by the Father ere time began. Because of His everlasting love fixed upon them IN the person of His Son, in His seed, the voice of the eternal God is heard in their experience separating them from the ways of sin and death. It is because of no good works performed by them, or goodness naturally existing in them; for they are, in their fallen natural standing, like all the rest of Adam’s race, involved in sin and death.
Abram and Nahor are both of the same parent; but the “word of the Lord” comes to Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”
But I desired to offer some brief thoughts upon the word or message unto Abram, as recorded in the text: “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” The Lord speaks unto him, and calls him by name: “Fear not, Abram.” The Savior says that “the Shepherd of the sheep” “calleth His own sheep by name.” Whenever the Lord sends a blessing through His word in the experience of one of His people, no doubt is left in the mind of such an one but what the blessing is for him. He calleth him by name. It is the sweet, soothing voice or word of the eternal God vibrating within, filling the soul with heavenly melody, calming the earthly passions, clearing the mind, for the moment, of doubts and fears, and raising us above these things in a view of our acceptance in the Beloved.
“Fear not.” The words imply a tendency to fear upon Abram’s part. In all of the mortal travel of this people from the time when light dawns upon them, they are those who tremble and fear. Many are the avenues through which fear seizes upon them; but the Scriptures abound with the most precious promises and strongest declarations of comfort from the eternal throne for these doubting and fearing ones. These characteristics seem completely alien in the experiences of natural religion as can be observed all around the camp of the saints. God causes His living children to “give all diligence to make thy (their) calling and election sure.” And this the world that is never called or elected to eternal life can ever do. “Fear not,” He says, “for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire that shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
But perhaps in no instance is there a stronger promise than the one made unto Abram in the text: “I am thy shield.” There is not an heir of immortal glory but who is under the same sheltering protection. God is their shield, and guards their way. What harm can possibly befall one encircled with this shield? What living Truth in the command to Abram, “Fear not?” Where could fear in the least degree arise? The Lord was His God and guide; He was round about him ever. His mighty arm was lifted, the shield of His eternal power was displayed to ward off every danger. And through the travel of time, “as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even forever;” while it is arranged in His infinite Wisdom and for their good that weapons shall be formed against them, yet He has declared that “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” No pointed arrow of venom aimed at their peace by the prince of darkness can pierce to their hurt the shield lifted for their defense. No enemy of any name or of natural religion can approach the impregnable bulwarks of salvation reared around them. The Lord is “a wall of fire round about.”
“God is their life; His wings are spread
To shield them with an healthful shade.”
“If vapors with malignant breath
Rise thick, and scatter midnight death,
Israel is safe; the poisoned air
Grows pure, if Israel’s God be there.”
In the conclusion of the text He declares Himself to be Abram’s “exceeding great reward.” What expressive language! Have we not been taught it, or led into a heartfelt realization of the Truth which it presents in the revelation which we have had of the glory of our God? The Truth of this declaration made unto Abram was verified in all of the rich blessings with which the Lord did bless him. The greatness of his God was manifested in all of the way over which he traveled. The greatness of the blessings experienced by him manifested the bounding power and wisdom of the great, eternal, sovereign Giver. Has not the Lord in our experience sent a word, revealed a promise, manifested the riches of His grace, given unto us the sweet assurance that He is our “exceeding great reward!” Says the psalmist, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon the earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” What sources of joy have we, what place of refuge in trial, but in the Lord? Aside from Him there is no real joy; but in His presence there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevcrmore. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
Life eternal manifests in the experience of quickened sinners an hungering and thirsting for these spiritual things. They are made to desire them far beyond all things else. Nothing but the revelation of the glory of the eternal God in the face of His dear Son can satisfy the desires that eternal life begets. The believer in his temporal travel has an earnest of that inheritance reserved in heaven for the sons of light. But when his mortal powers fail, when “this corruptible shall have put on incorruption,” then shall he realize its exceeding greatness in the clearness of that bright, eternal day, where the righteous shall shine forever in the glory of their God, and the voice of eternal victory shall be heard forevermore.
Yours in Gospel fellowship,
William Middleton Smoot